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Sexual Health Service Improvements for Gay and Bisexual Men

June 20, 2014 12:35 PM

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Sexual health services for gay and bisexual men in both the Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lothian areas will see improvements following a recent HIV Prevention Needs Assessment.

In Greater Glasgow and Clyde this will see an extra £80,000 being invested in current services.

Over the last ten years, despite extensive HIV prevention efforts, the number of cases of HIV in men who have sex with men (MSM) has steadily risen across major cities in the western world.

In Scotland, the majority of new infections are in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lothian areas.

The HIV prevention needs assessment, undertaken jointly by the two boards, has highlighted a number of key findings:

• MSM generally have very positive experiences of sexual health and HIV services

• However many MSM experience issues of low self esteem, poor emotional well being, alcohol and substance misuse and more needs to be done to address these issues within sexual health services

• Over the past 10 years, the number of men accessing an HIV test has greatly improved

• MSM living in Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lothian NHS Board areas are, on average, diagnosed with HIV at a later stage of infection than MSM in the rest of the UK so more focus is needed to increase how often MSM test

• The men most likely to be diagnosed with HIV are white, urban dwelling and aged 26 to 45, although there is a growing number of younger men acquiring HIV who form a quarter of new diagnoses

• Two fifths of men newly diagnosed with HIV had never previously engaged with specialist sexual health services and a third had never previously tested for HIV prior to diagnosis

• This is particularly relevant in younger men in their teens and early 20s who are very sexually active but not very well informed about risk.

Dona Milne, Deputy Director Public health, NHS Lothian said: “The steady rise in the number of MSM HIV cases is something that is not just restricted to Scotland but is being seen across the western world.

“Both NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lothian, where large concentrations of MSM live, worked together to conduct a health needs assessment to gain a better understanding of the reasons behind the increase.

“A key finding from the assessment is that more needs to be done to engage younger men on the risks they may be taking with their sexual health.

“When men do engage with sexual health services, the assessment found that more needs to be done to address other issues they may be faced with such as low self-esteem or poor emotional well-being.”

In response to the needs assessment findings both Boards have reviewed their current service provision and are implementing a number of improvements.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is expanding the Steve Retson project based at the Sandyford – a dedicated sexual health service for MSM - with increased community clinics and more Point of Care testing which provides patients with instant test results.

The board is also increasing its efforts to reach younger men by engaging with youth services in the community and developing an online service with the facility to answer questions.

In NHS Lothian, a new pathway to improve mental health and wellbeing support for MSM has been agreed. The Chalmers Centre has recently created a new service for young people which includes increasing access for services for young gay men.

To complement all of these enhancements, a major staff training programme has begun in both health boards to enable staff to have more open and in-depth discussions with MSM about sex and relationship issues which matter to them.

In both board areas, these service improvements will be delivered by larger teams of sexual health professionals. This will include some aspects of support that has previously been provided by third sector organisations and their volunteers.

In particular some services provided by Gay Men's Health in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area will be transferred to the NHS as part of the increased clinical services and the range of services offered by Gay Men's Health in Lothian will reduce.

Nicky Coia, HIV Programme Manager, Public Health Protection Unit, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “We acknowledge and value the contribution made by Gay Men’s Health and their volunteers who have helped distribute condoms and disseminate information in gay venues about the risks of unprotected sex.

“The comprehensive findings from the HIV prevention assessment however have highlighted that the type of advice that MSM need is better delivered in the environment of an NHS sexual health service.”


For further information either contact:

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Press office on 0141 201 4429 or email [email protected]

NHS Lothian Press Office on 0131 465 5652

Notes to Editors

This HIV Prevention Needs Assessment of MSM was developed in partnership between NHS GGC and NHS Lothian, with funding from the Scottish Government Public Health Division Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus team. The Needs Assessment was designed to answer the following questions:

What factors can be identified that will influence the design of future interventions to reduce HIV incidence amongst MSM?

1. What can we learn about the social and sexual networks utilised by men?
2. What STI/HIV risk reduction strategies are currently employed by men?
3. What characterises MSM most at risk of HIV?
4. What motivates risk behaviour?
5. Are current prevention interventions reaching men at highest risk of HIV acquisition?
6. What might a combination approach to HIV prevention look like in light of this information?

The reports from the needs assessment can be found at:

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Last Updated: 06 February 2015